Just 20 Minutes
A small amount of time can make a big difference
by Helen Levesley (revised, originally published in 2009)
Suitable for Whole School (Sec)
To consider how our use of just 20 minutes can make a difference to our lives.
Preparation and materials
Optional: you may wish to use the song ‘Tomorrow’ from Bugsy Malone.
How many times have you felt that you have too many things to do? You have an essay to write; you have a piece of coursework that you have to start, let alone finish, ready to hand in tomorrow; you need to make your UCAS choices and your A Level choices; and you need to revise for your mocks, and then for your final exams . . . the list goes on and on. Even just contemplating everything you have to do might make you want to scream, cry, or run away and hide, or probably all of those things at once.
I am sure that there are times when all those obstacles you have to overcome feel like huge mountains. They seem huge and insurmountable, and you feel as if there is no way that you will ever get over them. Maybe the problems or the things you need to do are so overwhelming that you decide that you are not even going to try. Alternatively, you may decide that you will put everything off until tomorrow or until you feel like it.
The word ‘procrastination’ means ‘the action of delaying or postponing something’. In Latin, ‘pro’ means 'forward' and ‘cras’ means 'tomorrow'. In the film, Bugsy Malone, the character sings a song with the lyrics ‘Tomorrow/ Tomorrow never comes’. Procrastination can mean that we never get focused: the problem doesn’t get solved and things simply do not get done. When eventually, something has to be done, the stress can be enormous and the job is not done as well as it could have been.
However, it wouldn’t be helpful to send you from this assembly with rising feelings of panic that you will never achieve the things you have to do! So let’s start thinking small: about as small as 20 minutes. To get yourself focused, you need to start thinking small and not big – that sounds funny, doesn’t it? All your problems feel huge, there is so much to do and I have just brought all of those problems to the front of your mind, too. However, why don't you try looking at the smallest possible thing you can contemplate doing in about 20 minutes? Can you sit down and write a symphony, or that piece of coursework? No. Could you write a few bars, or a section, say - maybe 20 minutes’ worth? Could you sit at a piano for just 20 minutes, could you sit down at your desk or computer for just 20 minutes, undisrupted by fear, panic, self-criticism or other tasks? Yes, you can do that.
After you have done just 20 minutes, you may find that you could manage five minutes more. And then, you’re a little way up the mountain, and you are managing to achieve, which we all know makes us feel better. Once you take little steps, you are on your way! A little step at a time will eventually lead to you managing everything that you thought you would never be able to do.
Time for reflection
Let’s pause and think about the things that are most bothering us. Let’s decide to break things down into chunks that we can cope with, a little bit at a time. Let’s take a moment to remind ourselves that, even if we feel overwhelmed and frightened, there are tasks we can achieve. If we think small, the big things are broken down and become manageable.
Please give me the strength to realize that 20 minutes can make all the difference in the world.
Please help me when I feel stressed.
Please help me to tackle small things a little at a time.
‘Lord of all hopefulness’ (Come and Praise, 52)
Optional: you may wish to play the song ‘Tomorrow’ from Bugsy Malone.